Many people might have heard of Elliott Sailors, a former Ford model who decided to cut her locks and be a male model. Her story drew a lot of attention. Sailors wanted to try something different and calls it, “a new way to create inside the industry.” I emailed her on a lark and she graciously agreed to answer some of my questions over email. Please feel free to share your thoughts.
Please view this video of her getting her hair cut.
You said people speak and relate to you differently on shoots, what about during daily life, how do people react to you?
I watch people try to figure out if I’m a guy or a girl sometimes. I hear people talk about my haircut. More than just a few times when I enter a store or approach a counter someone will say, “Welcome, Sir.” or “How can I help you today, Sir.”
Personally, I always like when that happens. It’s what I’m going for! And when they realize I’m a woman I always reassure them that it’s perfectly ok and I don’t mind.
Sometimes I’ve even been surprised by people’s reactions though. Once I was a wearing a dress, walking on the subway platform and a woman shook her head and said, “Boys in dresses…” I actually laughed out loud—it took me so off-guard!
I like when people come up to me to ask about it or clarify for themselves. I’m happy people are choosing to keep an open-minded and evolving dialogue about gender-fluidity.
Now that you can experience how it feels to be perceived as a man, how does it feel when you look at older pictures of yourself in swimsuit shoots? What goes through your head?
First of all, I did so much more than swimsuit shoots! It’s weird to me how that’s what everyone keeps focusing on… That being said, I was talking with a photographer the other day and he said, “I guess you won’t be doing any more shoots on islands!” So I guess that’s about the extent of it—when I look at those pictures I think I’ll certainly miss those trips! I don’t FEEL any differently though.
What do you think when you look in the mirror?
I find this an odd question… I don’t think I think anything differently than I did before—I check out my skin, see if I need to do a better job taking care of it and make sure my hair is in place, I guess… If I think I look tired, then I think I should get more rest. Kind of a boring answer, but I just don’t think about it much. I was at my friend’s new bar/restaurant tonight on the LES, Rochelle’s, and my mother-in-law asked why there wasn’t a mirror in the restroom. I had just been in there and said, “Wait – there wasn’t a mirror in there?” I didn’t even notice…
What was one thing that really surprised you about this change?
That people still make such awful and bigoted remarks to other people they don’t understand. I mean, we live in NEW YORK CITY—and the fact I still hear homophobic slurs yelled at my husband and me is not only shocking, but heart-breaking!
Why do you think this story drew so much attention?
I wonder the same thing! I had no idea things would go this way. I think there are a few possible reasons:
1. I have enjoyed a successful career looking like what most call traditionally feminine. So, people find this move surprising—especially because it is my own idea and my own commitment.
2. I wanted this to make a difference for people in experiencing a freedom to find your own self-expression! I think people appreciate and understand this isn’t just some random career move. This is about something way bigger than just me or what I’m doing; it’s about freedom and creativity and self-expression really being possible in the world for humanity!
3. People seem to find it fascinating that a woman who is married to a man would choose this. A lot of people confuse gender and sexuality – and I think this is starting to clarify the difference for a lot of people. There are so many ways to express our gender and it isn’t limited by our sexuality.
Are you aware of how you are being perceived by women as well?
Yes, of course. For the most part I think the only real difference is that women recognize me as a strong individual now, as opposed to just another tall, blonde girl. I think that’s true of how men see me too though. I guess I feel I get more respect, which I didn’t know would come with just a haircut. I certainly appreciate it!
You mentioned that you have been perceived as a gay male, can you discuss this?
I think I pretty much addressed this above. When people see me as male and see me being affectionate with my husband, then their assumption seems to be that I’m a gay male. Honestly, I don’t mind that people have that perception, except when they’re judgmental or rude about it.
What I have really gotten from this story is the importance of living true to your own identity and doing what makes you feel good. It is incredibly easy to go with what society says is right but to actually live life on your own terms is challenging. This doesn’t mean to me that we are going not be influenced by society. She clearly states how society influences her but she is choosing another path. This to me is courage.